Working in Courts
Lincolnshire Probation Trust operates a service for Lincoln Crown Court and Magistrates’ Courts based in Lincoln, Grantham, Spalding, Boston and Skegness. The Probation staff help judges and magistrates to decide upon the most appropriate sentence for defendants by preparing pre-sentence reports. To write a report, they get details of the case from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and then interview the defendant about their lifestyle, home and work situation and about the alleged crime (offence). They will talk to you about your attitude to the offence and to any sentence suggested. They do this because the offender may have to agree to work hard at a suggested course, such as alcohol or drug abuse. They also provide information to the CPS on the suitability of the offender for bail. Fast Delivery Reports are on-the-day written assessments which outline which community sentence would be most appropriate for magistrates to consider.
The Probation staff are on hand to make sure offenders understand what has happened once they have been sentenced and to check if they have any special requirements. They also handle enquiries and give information to magistrates and judges, such as advising them on suitable bail arrangements.
The courts have three choices when considering bail. They can:-
- refuse bail – in which case the person is kept locked up (remanded in prison)
- agree bail without any special conditions
- or agree bail under certain conditions, such as having to stay at an approved premise (hostel).
Approved premises are a residential facility that provides an enhanced level of supervision and monitoring for individuals who present a high or very high risk of causing harm. The residency introduces a structure into their lifestyles. Lincolnshire has only 1 such hostel run and it is permanently staffed. You would only be housed in a hostel if:
- The court has ordered it as a condition of bail
- It is a requirement of a community order because the court believes that you need more supervision or a settled address
- It is a condition of your release from prison.
While living in a hostel you will be closely monitored and there will usually be a curfew imposed upon you, usually from 11 pm to 7 am, and you may be required to attend group work programmes or training projects.
Offenders are allocated to a either a Probation Officer or a Probation Services Officer ( The PO deals with the more serious or difficult offenders, the PSO managers the more minor crime and the more stable offenders), and this person will be your point of contact throughout the period of your sentence.
Work in Prisons
Probation staff from Lincolnshire Probation Trust are seconded to Lincoln, Morton Hall and North Sea Camp prisons. Their main responsibilities are preparing information and risk assessments on prisoners being considered for early release and working on prisoners’ offending behaviour. They work with prison staff to plan a structured sentence for the offender while they are inside. They also liaise with probation officers in the offender’s home community to devise a plan to help the offender settle as effectively as possible back into the community.
All offenders over 21 years old sentenced to over 12 months are supervised by the probation service when they come out of prison to live in Lincolnshire. Offenders aged 18-21 are supervised for three months if they receive any custodial sentence of less than 12 months.
This is known as ‘being on licence’ and involves the offender keeping in contact with a probation officer and abiding by certain restrictions on their movement or behaviour, including maybe taking part in accredited programmes to address their offending behaviour.
Any offender who breaks the rules of their licence will be returned for prison in a recall initiated by a probation officer. Those on life sentences released into the community remain subject to the life sentence for the rest of their life and can be returned to prison if their behaviour deteriorates.
The aim of risk assessment is
- – protecting the public
- – reducing re-offending
- – the proper punishment of offenders in the community
- – ensuring offenders’ awareness of the effects of crime on victims and the public
- – rehabilitation of offenders
These aims go together. To achieve them, and to protect the public in particular, the trust will assess whether a person is likely to commit further offences, and what harm to victims might result if they do. They will look at the chances of you harming yourself or others. A Probation Officer or other responsible person has to carry out an assessment in every case where someone comes into contact with the Service as a result of an offence. This includes:
- – specific Sentence or Pre-Sentence Reports
- – bail and hostel assessments
- – supervision on a community sentence
- – release from custody on Home Detention Curfew (tagging) or Licence
- – supervision on a Licence after a custodial release
Often the risk assessment is first made when a Report is prepared to help the court decide on sentence. It takes into account anything that suggests there is a risk of re-offending and harm being caused. A proposal in the Report will suggest how these risks can be dealt with, and what work might need to be done through a community or custodial sentence to reduce them.
The Officer carrying out the assessment will pay attention to the most recent offence, and any history of crime or significant events, including who had been harmed and in what way. This is particularly important if the offending has been sexual, violent or dangerous towards other people. The Officer will also look at whether someone’s present circumstances or behaviour suggest it is more or less likely they will offend again in the light of any problems there have been in the past. Everyone interviewed is asked to say if they think they will re-offend, and what needs to be done to stop this happening, including what they will do themselves. Taken together this leads to a decision that there is a ‘Very High’; ‘High’; ‘Medium’ or ‘Low’ risk of harm.
Whilst a person is in contact with the Probation Service the risks that have been identified will continually be looked at. Risks can change as circumstances change. Although the Probation Service will work with you to reduce the chances of committing further offences, and lessen the possibility that other people will be harmed, the final responsibility for achieving this is yours. If there is thought to be a high risk of harm to members of the public the Probation Service will give more frequent reporting instructions. There may be extra conditions to supervision too. Behaviour that puts other people at risk can result in a return to court or recall to prison.
Sharing Information About Risk
Information about a person known to the Probation Service is normally treated as confidential and not shared without agreement. However, when someone is sent to prison information is passed between the Probation Service and Prison Authorities, and there are other legal exceptions when it will help to prevent crime or injury. If there is the possibility of harm to other people, including children, information can be shared between Probation and the Health, Education, Employment and Social Services, the NSPCC, some housing providers, and the Police. Where the risk is significant this might happen at a meeting held for the purpose under Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA). In very serious cases where the risk concerns a prisoner due for release the Public Protection Unit at the Home Office may be notified. Exceptionally, the Probation Service may disclose information to other people if this is necessary to protect somebody from being seriously harmed.
The Service also has a duty to victims of crime. The victims of an offender sentenced to a year’s imprisonment or more for a sexual or violent crime are consulted about their views.
If someone is thought likely to harm themselves Probation Staff will inform prisons and/or relevant medical authorities.